The Indian Ministry of Defense has approved the purchase of 145 M777 Ultra Lightweight Howitzers from BAE Systems at a cost of about $750 million, according to Indian media reports. The government-to-government deal will occur under the Pentagon’s so-called Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.
“We are pleased that the Indian government is progressing the Foreign Military Sale of M777. This combat-proven system will provide the Indian Army with superior artillery capability at an advantageous price with early deliveries,” a BAE Systems press release stated.
A final contract is expected to be signed by the end of August. Delivery of the first batch of guns can begin within six months after the deal has been inked and should be completed by 2021.
The Indian MOD’s Defense Acquisition Council (DAC), headed by Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar, agreed to purchase 25 guns in ready-to-use condition with the remaining 120 howitzers to be built in partnership with Mahindra Defense at a BAE Systems Assembly, Integration and Test facility in India.
“As a founding partner of defense manufacturing in India, BAE Systems is pleased to partner with Mahindra on our offer to develop an Assembly, Integration and Test facility in India. The facility is a fundamental part of the M777 production line,” said a representative of BAE Systems in February 2016.
“A domestic Assembly, Integration and Test facility will enable the Indian Army to access maintenance, spares and support for the M777 locally. We will continue to support the two Governments to progress to contract agreement so that we may begin the process of ‘Make in India’ for M777.”
As I reported previously (See: “Mountain Warfare Against China: US Plans to Sell 145 Guns to India”):
The M777 allegedly is the world’s first 155 millimeter howitzer weighing less than 10,000 pounds (4,218 kilograms). Partly made of titanium, the gun can be airlifted swiftly to high-altitude terrain and is ideally suited for mountain warfare. The M777 has a firing range of up to 25 kilometers. The Indian Army plans to induct the new gun into its new 17 Mountain Strike Corps, which is to be stood up by 2021.
Once inducted, the M777 155 mm 39-caliber towed gun will likely be deployed along the so-called 4,057-kilometer (2520 miles) Line of Actual Control (LoAC) with China.
The DAC has also approved the purchase of 18 indigenously designed and manufactured Dhanush FH-77B 155 mm/45-caliber towed howitzers currently being upgraded by the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). As I explained in April 2015 (See: “Is India Finally Getting Modern Artillery?”):
The Dhanush is an improved version of the FH-77B 155 mm/39-caliber towed howitzer manufactured by the Swedish defense contractor Bofors (now BAE Systems) and of which India acquired 414 between 1987 and 1991.
All 414 Dhanush guns are expected to be upgraded by 2017. The Indian Army has not inducted a new gun since 1989.